A possie in Aussie

January 10, 2010

Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.

The murder of Nitin Garg has inflamed the debate about violence against Indian students in Australia. Nitin was  stabbed to death last week just before starting work as night manager at a Hungry Jack’s store in West Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. (see also Yet another attack on Indians in Australia)

Then Jaspreet Singh, 29, was attacked in Melbourne’s north-west yesterday. He had come home from a dinner party with his wife in the early hours of the morning and was parking his car when four men poured fluid over him and set him alight.

The Indian Ministry of External affairs is urging journalists to show the utmost restraint in covering the story. Slain Indian student’s body arrives home

The Ministry says just what I have been worrying about: that irresponsible reporting could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on bi-lateral relations.

It is important that we debate what has happened, so I would like to have a go at looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Please let me know how I do!

1. Every society that has a mixture of ethnicities has racist incidents, including Australia. Racist incidents are a form of bullying, and there always have been and always will be people who bully others.

2. Australia is not racist. As far as I can see there is no officially condoned discrimination on the grounds of race, there are laws against any types of discrimination, and governments make positive efforts to encourage multicultural harmony.

3. Australians are not racist. I don’t like to apply that term to anyone, because I don’t think it’s useful. It’s more useful; (and less inflammatory) to talk about racially motivated behaviour.

In addition, from all the studies I have read, there seems to be less of this behaviour in Australia than most other countries.

4. The majority of these crimes appear to have occurred in Melbourne, in suburbs in high crime areas where ‘drugs, mental illness and poverty’ are the issue, late at night. International students in general must work to support themselves, and take after-hours jobs, and travel alone. They live in high crime areas because housing is cheaper. The Indian students I have seen look anything but ‘tough’.

Darkness + high crime area+ single person alone+ ‘looks middle class, not tough’.

Add in the factor that guys who hang out in groups at night looking for targets are probably people who will ‘have a go’ about anything.

Result: opportunistic crime plus racial abuse, but not ‘racism’.

The greatest worry here are the crimes, and the answer is better policing, not debating whether the crimes were racist or not.

In Part 2. I will have a go at how we should be conducting this important debate.



  1. […] What’s a ‘possie’? Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1. […]

    Pingback by Indian students, Shapelle Corby: Having a go, Part 2 « A possie in Aussie — January 12, 2010 @ 7:31 am | Reply

  2. The murders might be random, but how do you explain the fact that there are WAY more attacks on Indian Students than Chinese (or any other nationality) students?

    Comment by Guy — January 14, 2010 @ 8:09 pm | Reply

    • I am very wary of ‘creating’ problems by jumping to conclusions.
      I also know that by talking about ‘problems’ the media can create problems (take the ‘floods’ of boat people, for example).
      There are racist attitudes and racist behaviour in Australia.
      To say that Indians are more targeted than others can of itself create more targeting (‘jumping on the bandwagon’)
      Let’s address the problem but let’s be very careful in choosing our words.
      Also, there may well be more attacks on Indians than on, say, Chinese. Firstly, I would like to know this from hard data (i.e. from police records) rather than from anecdote.

      Comment by nayano — January 15, 2010 @ 7:26 am | Reply

  3. Putting aside irresponsible media messages, finger pointing, indulging in blame game, Shashi Tharoor has put it very aptly:
    ‘for an Indian mother to hear that her son has been assaulted in Australia, it little matters to her whether he was assaulted because of his race, or because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because he was the wrong coloour or the wrong height, or was carrying an iPod. She doesn’t want her son to be assaulted.
    It’s a very common human feeling and that essentially what this is all about’.

    Comment by surjeet dhanji — January 15, 2010 @ 11:24 am | Reply

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    Comment by Robin Atoe — February 4, 2010 @ 4:16 pm | Reply

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